Release Images

Release No.: 2020-04
For Release: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 2:00pm

Black Hole Team Discovers Path to Razor-Sharp Black Hole Images

The image of a black hole has a bright ring of emission surrounding a "shadow" cast by the black hole. This ring is composed of a stack of increasingly sharp subrings that correspond to the number of orbits that photons took around the black hole before reaching the observer.

Credit: George Wong (UIUC) and Michael Johnson (CfA)

Credit: George Wong (UIUC) and Michael Johnson (CfA)

Black holes cast a shadow on the image of bright surrounding material because their strong gravitational field can bend and trap light. The shadow is bounded by a bright ring of light, corresponding to photons that pass near the black hole before escaping. The ring is actually a stack of increasingly sharp subrings, and the n-th subring corresponds to photons that orbited the black hole n/2 times before reaching the observer. This animation shows how a black hole image is formed from these subrings and the trajectories of photons that create the image.

Credit: Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian